1. What scale is your layout?
The most frequently asked question about our layout when we display it at model railroad shows is “What scale is this?” Our modular layouts are N scale and HO. Scale represents the proportion of the size of the model to the real thing. Scale is often spoken of as a ratio. For example, a real locomotive would be 1:1. HO scale is 1:87.1. This means that an HO locomotive is about 1/87th the size of a real one — you would need 87 HO locomotives lined up end to end to equal the length of a real locomotive of exactly the same type!
There are several popular scales:
Scale Proportion Advantages Drawbacks
N 1:160 more layout in a smaller space challenge to the small size
HO 1:87.1 very popular, very good availability everyone has/knows someone with HO trains
S 1:64 good compromise not very common, not a lot available
O 1:48 (varies) excellent detail lots of space needed
G 1:23 (varies somewhat) makes a great railroad in your yard but has a higher cost
There are countless pro’s and con’s to every scale, and I am sure there have been oodles of arguments regarding the topic.
Something often confused with scale is gauge. Gauge represents the distance between the inside of the two rails on a piece of track. A real railroad (in North America) has a gauge of 4 feet eight and one half inches!
Typically HO scale trains run on HO gauge track. But they could run on N gauge track — if they represented narrow gauge equipment. People would be the same size but the distance between the rails would be smaller. Trains built to run on G gauge track come in different scales — that is they are slightly larger or smaller in size but the distance between the rails is the same.
2. How long does it take to set up your layout?
It depends a bit on the configuration of the layout. You would think smaller layouts would be a lot quicker to set up than larger ones but, in fact, when we have a larger layout, we also have more members on hand to help. On average, we can set up a good-sized layout for a show in about two hours.
3. Who owns the layout? What about the trains?
The club owns the yard, engine servicing module, and a few other key items on the N scale and the power connection module on the HO. The club helps members build the tables for the modules but each member must buy a table and complete a module on their own. Members are responsible for obtaining all the track, buildings, accessories, scenery, etc. So members own their own modules. The club owns the digital control equipment (DCC) used to run the trains at shows, but members must supply their own throttle. Members bring their own locomotives and rolling stock to run during the show.
4. Where do you set up your layout between shows?
The club does not have any permanent space set up our layout in between shows. We are currently set up in a vacant store in Confederation Mall at 300 Confederation Dr. We have been relocating in the mall as they undergo a lot of renovations. The size and configuration of the stores vary and so does our display. We have been alternating between the new HO and the renovated N layouts. Some work is being done on the premises while some members set up their own modules in their homes to work on and do maintenance. Other than that, everything fits inside a nice cozy car trailers.
5. How do you make your scenery?
There are many methods to make scenery. Plaster, fibreglass and foam can all be used as a base and shaped as required. This is then painted or stained and covered with various materials such as ground foam, fine gravel, model trees and any number of other items. Any model railroad hobby shop will have books to show you how to make scenery. On line videos by manufactures and individuals can be found on You Tube and websites.
As a general rule, our club has found that plaster scenery is relatively heavy and tends to chip when carried around a lot so most of our modules are relatively flat. This reduces both the weight and the likelihood of chipping. We can create depth by using buildings, trees and other structures. Most modules use pink construction insulation foam for the scenery base as this is very light.
6. Can I join your club?
Absolutely! Go to our Contact page http://prairierailworkshop.com/contact-us/
7. How can you run several trains (locomotives) on the same track at the same time?
Carefully! If the operators get talking to people or are distracted in some other way, interesting things can (and do) happen!
From a technical point of view, we use what is called Digital Command Control, or DCC. The particular brand we use is made by Digitrax. A square wave AC voltage of about 12 volts is applied to the track at all times. The DCC control unit receives signals from a hand-held radio throttle, translates the signals into commands and then sends these commands over the track circuit to locomotives which have a digital computer chip installed. Each locomotive chip is programmed to a different address (similar to an e-mail address) and the commands sent out by the control unit to the locomotive programmed to that address which is to respond. By this method, individual locomotives can be started, stopped, reversed, have their speed adjusted, their headlights turned on or off, and so on. The whole system works very much like an ethernet computer network but with signal packets sent over the rails instead of over a special cable.
If you want to set up a small train set of your own, you don’t have to get this complicated. Just get an ordinary locomotive and an ordinary power pack along with some track and you’re in business. “Ordinary” trains use variable voltage DC current on the rails and you cannot control multiple locomotives on the same track at the same time.
8. Where can I get model railroad items?
There are some good hobby shops in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan. The internet is a great place too. See our Links page for details.
In addition, there are usually model railroad items, both new and used, for sale at model railroad shows and other similar events.
To see most of the vast array of model railroad items currently in production, see the Walthers Model Railroad Mall on our Links page. Many of the items listed can be obtained at local hobby shops. If they don’t have an item, they will probably be able to order it for you. Remember, though, any prices quoted on this site are in US dollars!,
9. How much does it cost? How much did your layout cost?
You can spend anything from a few dollars for used equipment up to hundreds or more for good quality items. Larger scales (O and G) are generally more expensive. Visit some of the local hobby shops to get some idea of costs.
As for our layout, we don’t want our wives to know so we can’t really say! It changes as members change their modules and add more rolling stock (locomotives and trains). A general ballpark figure I use is $100-200 for a locomotive, and $15-40 for rolling stock.